Zero is one of the longest running players in the electric motorcycle space, and while its bikes have historically been great as commuters, the company has never had anything that we'd consider to be genuinely competitive with any of the sporting internal combustion-powered bikes from other manufacturers.
Until now, that is. Zero unveiled the SR/F electric streetfighter on Monday in New York, and it marks a pretty dramatic shift for the brand. To start with, it makes a highly respectable 110 horsepower and 140 foot-pounds of torque. It's that latter figure that puts the SR/F in the big leagues alongside the greats of the super-naked category like the KTM 1290 Super Duke R.
Zero's SR/F also gets aggressive styling that would look right at home next to a, but as you might expect with a modern electric motorcycle, it's in the electronics where the SR/F starts to stand out. Zero is rolling out its latest in-house operating system for its bikes on the SR/F. It's called Cypher III and is tied comprehensively to Bosch's Motorcycle Stability Control system. It also pairs seamlessly with Zero's smartphone app.
Cypher III and Bosch MSC together offer riders four preprogrammed ride modes and up to 10 user-programmable ride modes. That last figure is somewhat unprecedented -- though, to be honest, we're not entirely sure why you'd need 10 customizable modes.
Zero claims that the SR/F with the optional Power Tank auxiliary battery option (which won't be available until this fall) will offer riders up to 200 miles of range. That's a seriously impressive figure, but expect that number to take a nosedive if you spend much time on the freeway. Zero also claims that with all three of its available "charging modules" installed, the SR/F will go from zero to 95 percent charge in around an hour.
So far, this all sounds pretty great, but now we're getting to the bummer portion of the spec sheet. The SR/F's suspension and brake setup look to be on the "meh" side of lackluster. The front fork is an inverted Showa unit, which would be fine, except that Zero makes no mention of specs or adjustability. The rear monoshock is also from Showa, though it doesn't appear to be especially high-spec either. The brakes are made by a Spanish company called J.Juan, which I had to Google.
This brings us to the biggest issue with Zero's new bike: the cost. The base model SR/F with a 3kWh charger starts at $18,995. The higher-spec version lists at almost $21,000. That's not chump-change in the world of motorcycles and at that price (and performance) point, people will likely want to see higher-grade components from brands like Ohlins and Brembo slapped onto their new electrical terror. We motorcyclists are nothing if not vain.
Will the SR/F be fun to ride? Almost undoubtedly, but the difference between building a bike that's fun to ride and a bike that people will be willing to slap down $20,000 when it goes on sale this spring on is relatively vast. Zero seems to be heading in the right direction with the SR/F, but it also looks like it has a long way to go before it's going to be mentioned in the same breath as Ducati,or KTM.